Brutal Hearts

This post originally appeared on Obscurorant 2.0 in July of 2008.  AS of this second posting, the Wild Geese can be streamed through Netflix Instant. Cinematic delight awaits you, dear reader.

This may be the first of a series, but for now it should suffice to say that The Wild Geese is a bad movie and I love it. Although perhaps the term ‘bad movie’ is a bit unfair. The Wild Geese succeeds in its goal, which is to entertain the hell out of you with lots of explosions, near-misses and hairs-breadth escapes. According to the internets, Euan Lloyd, the movie’s producer wanted to make an adventure fill with an all-star cast, like The Guns of Navarone, and The Wild Geese works perfectly well on that level. Truth-to-tell, I prefer Geese to Guns, thought that may just be nostalgia.

Is the cast ‘all star?’ Well, I guess Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger were considered stars in 1978, but you’re not going to see any deep or multi-layered performances here. The characters they play are all pretty cardboard – more on this later.

Without giving too much away, the plot is essentially this: a group of mercenaries are hired to execute a mission in a fictional African nation under dictatorial rule. On the verge of complete success they are betrayed and stranded deep in enemy territory, giving The Wild Geese shades of Anabasis, as well as echoes of The Dogs of War and real-life events.

I first encountered this movie courtesy of Channel 56, which aired The Wild Geese annually on The Eight O’Clock Movie*, but it dropped completely off my radar during my college years and remained that way until two years ago, when I came across a DVD edition of the film. Naturally I bought said DVD and watched it the same day. My conclusion: The Wild Geese holds up as an adventure film. Sure the effects for explosions and such are dated, but that kind of adds to the old-school non-CGI charm of the film. And there’s plenty of buckles to be swashed and derring-do, as one would expect. But there were a couple of other things I noticed after watching the movie for the first time in twenty-odd years.

While The Wild Geese essentially has the soul of a solid B-movie, focusing on thrills and heroics, there are parts where a rather brutal strain comes to the surface. I don’t recall the heroes in Guns of Navarone shooting their wounded rather letting them fall into enemy hands, but it’s done here. Plus there’s the unusual execution of a drug-dealer, and an overall high body count.

Then there’s the gay character, who is really, you know, gay. Positively swishy. Which isn’t necessary a criticism – every character in the movie was pretty much a stereotype right from central casting. You get your dependable and grizzled noncom, you get your flamboyantly gay dude and so on. What struck me was the fact that character’s sexuality, unlike some more recent films, was not played up as a source of laughs or comedy, or the reason the character was less tough or capable than the other mercenaries. Hell, this particular character even got to play the hero in an old-fashioned ‘manly man’ sort of way, which I thought was an interesting attitude for a movie of this type made way back on the 70′s to take. A little bit of enlightened thinking with the explosions if you will.

Anyway, you can see the trailer here.

*The late, lamented Eight O’Clock Movie I should add. The program was obviously aimed at adults looking to fill the time between dinner and the news, but along with Channel 38′s Movie Loft, the Eight O’Clock Movie provided the adolescent me with a cinematic education, albeit a blinkered one, since the lineup of films consisted almost entirely of genre films, ranging from Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns to bad comedies. This would probably explain why I remained largely ignorant of classic films like Casablanca until I reached college.

New Slang

Since I was recently gifted a lifetime membership by LibraryThing, I went and cataloged all my books, or at least the 633 of them on the premises (there are others lurking in my Dad’s attic).

A Fine Romance

I haven’t made a lot of wise decisions in my life, but asking Herself to marry me was undoubtedly one of them.

Happy Valentine’s Day Best Beloved. I am madly in love with you.

N.B. – the photo was taken by Black Thumb Studios. You should hire them.

The Life and Times of the Broadcast Kid: The Woods

The following was originally posted in June of 2007 and appears here thanks to the Wayback Machine. I now have two kids of my own and think about things like this even more often.

If I were to write a memoir of my childhood I would shamelessly ripoff Bill Bryson and title it The Life and Times of the Broadcast Kid. I belong to the last generation to come of age before digital stream of ones and two and cable connections brought tsunamis of pop culture into every American household. I was raised by Mom and Dad, Channel 56, and Top 40 radio and this is what separates my generations from those that followed:the lack of media,be it songs, TV shows or movies, on demand, round-the-clock, whenever you wanted it. If we wanted to be entertained by outside agents we were at the mercy of the broadcast, of network TV and the local DJs. And so we had a lot of time on our hands, and the freedom to go with it; a way of growing up that I think has probably vanished from the United States,or so it seems it me.

I am not a Luddite by any means, nor do I wish to indulge in pointless nostalgia about ‘the good old days.’ I’m very happy to be alive when and where I am today. I love my DVDs and CDs, my iPod, my DSL, Netflix and the endless flow of information and entertainment at my fingertips. But I wouldn’t trade my childhood, and the vanished customs and mores of that world, for anything, and I can’t help thinking, however presumptious it may be, that the children of later generations missed out on a good thing.

I grew up in a sleepy town in southern Massachusetts. Which town is unimportant, save to note that if you went south for a while on Route 24 and then turned west you could find it. Or the remainders of it –the town has changed a great deal in the last 25 years and the remote bedroom community of my youth has evolved into constantly growing cancer of strip malls, developments and McMansions.

But when I was young it really was a sleepy town, cliche aside, the kind of place that a restless kid like the one I was to become couldn’t wait to leave and venture out into the wide wild world. In my earliest memories I can recall walking up the street to sit on a weathered stonewall and look at the grazing cows. Going to McDonalds involved a drive into the next town and as improbable as it may sound (for a New England town) I don’t recall a Dunkin Donuts close by until I was in high school. I lived in a neighborhood where many folks never locked their front doors; it wasn’t until I was a freshman in college that I needed, or owned, a key that allowed me to reach my bed,and as a teenager if my friends were looking for me on a Saturday morning they simply came in the house, went upstairs,and shook me awake. My hometown was a staid mix of Swamp Yankees, Irish,and Swedes, plus a whole lot of rocks and fields.

And of course there was the Woods. As I kid I divided my immediate world into two spheres: streets with houses and such, and the Woods. Obviously the town consisted of much more that, but when you’re seven years old concepts like ‘maps’ and ‘geography’ might as well be quantum physics. You go with what you know, and if what you know is that every kid you’re friends with has the Woods behind their house or within a five minute walk,and that you can cut through the Woods to get to anywhere of note, well, the world must consist of streets –where we lived –and the Woods –where we played.

The Woods was nearly synonymous with ‘outside.’ Outside was where your parents told you to go when they needed you out of their hair or simply decided you’d been reading too long, and when you went outside you went to the Woods. And there you did pretty much whatever you wanted until the sun went down, or the dinner bell rang, and it was time to return. The Big Rock was good for making a fort, and the Castle loomed large in any game, whether it was Cops n’Robbers, Middle Earth, Creatures or any of the other imaginary games we made up in the Woods. The Woods was where you fished in the summer and skated in the winter. The Woods was pocket knives and matches. The Woods was freedom, freedom from rules, school, chores, baths, and anything resembling adult supervision. All together I probably spent as much time running the Woods as I did sitting in class. We disappeared for hours upon hours into the Woods and our parents were probably happy for the peace and quiet this gave them.

Begin The Beguine

Although nobody but my sister (Hi Meg!) noticed, Obscurorant 2.0 vanished  this past October, victim of a behind-the-scenes database update by my hosting service.  Lacking the time to puzzle out an actual  solution, I resorted to re-installing wordpress which croaked the seven years worth of material formerly residing here, and somehow taking Obscurorant 1.0 down as well.

And yet here I am.  See you around.